Anglo hits rich seam with record profits of £7bn

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Soaring commodity prices driven by demand from China helped diamond-to-coal miner Anglo American dig out a record £7bn profit last year.

The group, which owns building materials arm Tarmac and plans to take control of diamond giant De Beers, said operating profits rose 14 per cent to 11.1 billion US dollars in 2011 as it cashed in on the appetite of emerging markets’ for its raw materials.

Anglo, one of the world’s largest mining companies, is headquartered in London but employs more than 100,000 people at sites across the globe. The products it excavates include iron ore, manganese, coal, copper, nickel, platinum and diamonds.

It got three new projects up and running on or ahead of schedule during the year, boosting its iron ore, copper and nickel production, although its operations in Queensland and South Africa were hit by flooding.

The group said it has commissioned nine new projects, which along with its recently opened mines, should help it grow faster than its rivals. It expects to approve a further 16 billion US dollars (£10.2bn) of projects over the next three years.

Although it predicts some volatility in commodity prices in the coming months, it expects the increase in living standards for the booming middle classes in India and China will drive demand for its products.

The group is also encouraged by signs of a recovery in the US and said developed nations will need to buy its products to upgrade their infrastructure.

Chief executive Cynthia Carroll is one of just four female bosses of FTSE 100 Index companies after taking the helm in 2007.

She said: “Despite short term uncertainty persisting in the global economy, particularly in Europe, the longer term outlook for Anglo American’s diversified mix of commodities remains strong.

“We expect sustained growth in the emerging economies, notably in China and India, which will underpin robust demand for commodities, supplemented by early recovery signs in the US.”

The group has agreed to pay 5.1 billion US dollars (£3.2bn) to buy the Oppenheimer family’s 40 per cent stake in De Beers, bringing its stake up to 85 per cent, but is waiting for clearance from competition authorities.

Anglo made a record operating profit of £419.6m from diamonds in the year, up 33 per cent, thanks to price increases.